Thursday, August 02, 2007

"Orthodox Paradox" is actually "Ooopsidux Negligent Reportingdox"?

Last night I went to a very nice party to celebrate the occasion of my friend's father achieving rabbinical ordination. At the party happened to be a high-ranking administrator of Maimonides, the alma mater of myself and of Noah Feldman, and I asked him whether the school plans to issue a response of some kind to Feldman's article. He said "no," and I agreed that was probably the best plan on their part. He mentioned that some Orthodox rabbis in Boston had been approached by colleagues and asked "do you really believe this? That the only reason to save a non-Jewish life is to protect the Jewish community?" We chatted a while more about how my parents and sister are doing, where I've published recently, etc, and then I wandered away to get some cheese and crackers.

Later, I was thinking that I'd like to give him some feedback, as an alumna, to the effect that while I do think that Feldman's article is disingenuous in many ways, I do think it was silly of the school to crop him and his (non-Jewish) then-fiancee out of a reunion photo. After all, no one can realistically expect that ANY school will produce alumni who are 100 percent faithful to the ideals of the school. If I'd received that newsletter and saw that one of the alumni was engaged to a woman of Asian descent, I would have perhaps paused long enough to wonder whether she was a convert, a child of converts, or not Jewish . . . and I would have felt a mixture of amusement and bemusement at the thought of someone bringing a non-Jewish fiancee to a Maimo reunion . . . and then I would have turned the page and thought about something else. I seriously have better things to do than wonder whether this woman is Jewish or not, or question the personal life of an alumnus two years ahead of me, someone of whom I can't say I was ever particularly fond.

And I certainly wouldn't think that his intermarrying reflects on the school any more or less than do the incredible achievements within and for the Jewish community of Maimo's many hundreds of other graduates. I don't think any reasonable person would. So why crop him out?

But this administrator was busy talking with other guests, and I never had a chance to take him aside and voice my opinion.

Now I'm glad I didn't waste his time, because, assuming this article in The Jewish Week has the story straight, the entire lede to Feldman's article was moot. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, many, many graduates' photos didn't make it into the newsletter, because the photographer couldn't get the entire group into the frame. About a dozen other people -- all Jews -- didn't make it into the picture either.

And most damning - for The New York Times, of which you all know I am generally a fan - the photographer who took the reunion photos claims that he offered the photos to The New York Times to run with the story, but the Times opted not to run the picture when it became clear that the problem wasn't Feldman's Asian girlfriend, it was the logistics of fitting 60 people into a photo that would look good in the newsletter.

I can wrap my mind around the idea that Feldman misunderstood the events leading to him being left out of the newsletter. I can wrap my mind around the idea that he and the photographer had a misunderstanding.

But I cannot wrap my mind around the Magazine editor at The New York Times neglecting to go back to Feldman and asking him to re-write his story with a different lede, one that reflects reality.

Of course, now who knows what really happened and who misunderstood whom?

I cannot wait to see the Letters section of the New York Times Sunday Magazine 3 days from now.

This story is like Wonderland, it just keeps getting curiouser and curiouser.

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